Chris Drake

5 steps to agile development for SAP

Chris Drake | May 10, 2021

We’ve all heard the arguments why agile won’t work in the SAP sector. Large teams are working on high-stake projects that can run for months, even years before the solution is delivered to production. At the same time, we’re talking about your organization’s systems of records, so it can be risky to deliver incomplete software to the production environment.

Yet, despite the increasing size and complexity of SAP environments, SAP application development can benefit from going agile. Indeed, businesses that can deliver SAP applications most efficiently and cost-effectively will gain a competitive advantage.

Are you considering going agile but not sure where to begin? Here’s how to start introducing agile methodologies into your SAP environment to help your business respond quickly to market changes in today’s digital world.

1. Why should your business care about agile for SAP?

Currently, many companies have a finely tuned, customer-facing front end. More frequently built using agile methodologies. Yet, SAP back-end systems have traditionally not progressed at the same pace. Now, SAP teams are under pressure from businesses to deliver more change, more frequently, and with less risk.

Agile promotes rapid delivery of working software in phases. Projects are broken into smaller components and delivered in shorter iterations, for example, sprints. This is at odds with the Waterfall approach traditionally used for SAP development, where the payoff is often huge costs, poor performance, lower quality, and ultimately dissatisfied customers.

Agile practices meet demands for greater speed while allowing for incremental improvements better aligned to the current needs of the business. SAP Applications and enhancements are allowed to evolve, eliminating the requirement for upfront documentation detailing the design of the solution before any work proceeds.

2. Define what success looks like

Your business must have an agile mindset to achieve success with an agile approach to SAP projects. This involves a significant top-down commitment from providing tools, training, and other resources to flexibility in production timelines and more.

To convince executive management, owners, etc. SAP IT teams need to provide a compelling business case detailing the benefits an agile approach can bring to the organization to justify the investment. Undertake a rigorous examination of your business and understand what it currently costs to deliver SAP applications and enhancements.

Some questions to consider include:

  • What is the annual cost in time and resources to complete planned projects?
  • How many errors make their way into production from development?
  • What is the hourly cost of unplanned production system incidents?
  • How much money is lost per year due to application failure and downtime?
  • What is the benefit of faster delivery in revenue terms and innovation for competitive advantage?
  • How efficient is your SAP application delivery – can you cut waste from the process?

3. Prioritize and compartmentalize SAP projects

To embark on your agile journey, start small. Examine your current and planned SAP projects to determine their suitability to the agile process. Going agile involves SAP IT teams adapting to new methods and approaches, trialing and tweaking to discover what works and what doesn’t.

To learn and prove the process within your organization, consider starting with a smaller, less risky project, one with minimal impact if mistakes occur. After selecting the project, it’s essential to split up SAP changes into discrete units that can be delivered easier and faster to production inside the sprint period.

Larger SAP changes, including application capabilities and functions, should be broken into tasks that can be managed across sprints. These tasks can represent the entire delivery of the change to production or be a subset of that change. Regardless, the key to successfully adopting agile in your SAP environment is to master SAP change management.

4. Automate to reduce risk and fast track agile for SAP

While individual SAP IT teams may have a different approach to managing SAP change, their methods are primarily manual. The more manual intensive your SAP change process, the greater the risk of a production incident that can seriously impact your bottom line.

When you adopt an agile approach, you can expect to see a massive reduction in development cycles and improve quality and production system stability. To keep pace with the demand for more change, more often and with less risk, eliminating error-prone, manual methods is crucial.

Automating your SAP change management processes increases the speed and volume at which applications are delivered without breaking production. A solution that can automate and manage SAP transports, like Rev-Trac’s automated SAP change management platform, is crucial for improving efficiencies and minimizing risk, particularly on large projects.

“Rev-Trac has streamlined and automated our SAP change management operations with considerably less effort while facilitating significantly more work and throughput.”

Rodney Schmisseur, Senior IT Manager, Verizon Communication

Replacing manual tasks with automated, enforceable, and consistent processes deliver business benefits rapidly and support agile and DevOps for SAP.

5. Develop a shift left and integrate mindset

The agile transformation journey doesn’t occur overnight. To speed up application delivery, a ‘shift left’ attitude is a must.

The shift left concept means everything from design to writing code, and testing happens earlier in the application development lifecycle. So bugs get fixed more quickly, application capabilities meet the needs of the business, and aspects of security and integration, and compatibility is resolved earlier on.

Embracing a shift lift attitude encourages automation and a single, unified approach to software development. Automating your SAP change control processes ensures your business is quick to react to changes in expectations and keep pace with competitors.

Yet, it doesn’t start and end there. Different stages in an SAP application’s lifestyle – for example, the software testing process – can benefit from automation. Integrating other automation tools such as code review and impact assessment and testing tools in an end-to-end process improves quantity, volume, and quality of SAP change at massively reduced costs.

Get started now with agile for SAP

In a digital economy, businesses across every sector must react quickly to constant changes in the marketplace to survive. To meet the challenge, all applications – SAP included – have to be delivered faster and without risk to your IT environment.

An agile methodology helps to support this by optimizing the development process and accelerating the delivery of better and safer applications and enhancements. As a result, SAP applications deliver business value faster, speeding up time to ROI and freeing up resources for innovation.

Automation is critical for agile SAP application development. The closer you get to your agile goals, the more automated a set of systems and processes needs to be.

Rev-Trac – a fully integrated and automated SAP change management solution – increases the frequency and volume of SAP applications, aligning with the expectations of businesses and ultimately their customers.

Contact one of our SAP change management experts to discover how Rev-Trac enables you to massively reduce the time and effort to achieve SAP agile delivery and redeploy resources to innovate faster.

Chris Drake

Chris first joined the company in 2007 on the front line in customer support. In the role, he gained a comprehensive knowledge of the concerns and priorities customers have from both a user and strategic decision-maker standpoints. Working in the field as an implementation consultant, Chris has a deep understanding of SAP and change management and the impact manual processes have on SAP systems stability.
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